Blogs for the Foreseeable: Love thy postman, but mind the toad

Written by Helen Beecher Bryant

I applied to be a ‘Postal Delivery Operative’ once. I got rejected. But that’s a story for another time.

I’m not here to explore the ethics of sending stuff in the post at the moment. My thinking is that our postal service is the backbone of our national infrastructure and that continuing to use it is the right thing to do. I am aware that others feel differently.

The arrival of post that isn’t a bill or a parking fine brings joy to anyone. For the girl or young woman who is continuing to experience a situation which remains beyond comprehension, the arrival of a thoughtfully decorated envelope containing fun things will bring unimaginable joy.

Since lockdown, we have done fortnightly mail-outs to our members. All 174 of them. There may be good reasons as to why people are not engaging with our online activities – family life has been turned upside-down with everything now being delivered via screens. The irony of encouraging girls off their screens most of the time, then encouraging them onto them, is palpable. Others have lost track of what day it is and keep missing scheduled online meetings, albeit with the best intentions. This is why we are posting stuff – to keep in touch with everybody, regardless of their digital engagement. We need to hold every single one of our members in mind at this time.

Now – be aware. A significant percentage of the address data you have for your girls is wrong. There are two things which would never intersect in a Venn diagram – these are: ‘record-keeping’ and ‘fun’. But record-keeping matters. There are a shed-load of people living in Chislehurst and Petts Wood who have received artistically decorated envelopes – multi-coloured writing, adorned with shiny Baker Ross stars – addressed to people they have never heard of because they have long moved out. If records are not checked (and chased if not returned) at least annually, data becomes outdated. So, before you send anything in the post, e-mail all parents to ask if they have moved house in the last seven years (Rainbows), ten years (Brownies) etc. Prior to our massive growth initiative, pregnant women would find out that their impending arrival was a girl, then put her onto the Rainbow waiting list. Therefore it is quite possible that it wouldn’t occur to someone that the address you have for them may be years out of date. Our records are most definitely up to date now, and we have seen many families going back to homes they haven’t lived in for years to make friends with the people who live there now (socially-distanced, obviously) and collect their deliveries. We have only heard of one parcel disappearing and to be fair, that was the one that contained chocolate.

Be aware of how long it takes to stuff envelopes. Unless you are in lockdown with a potential production line of willing envelope-stuffers, it will take time. I am not – and the squirrel isn’t overly helpful in this situation. Also, avoid doing stupid things, like deciding to hand-write an individual poem for every Brownie, especially when you have more than 50 of them.

Our first mail-out was craft-related. I am quite emphatic that we are not a craft club and am generally anti-craft. However, since lockdown, I have learnt to turn a toilet roll into just about anything, from a flower picture to a penguin. Therefore, I conclude that the occasional craft is socially acceptable. We sent scratch art – who doesn’t love scratch art?

The second mail-out was chocolate, but not just any chocolate. We had chocolate bars personalised with our logos and a motivational message. Who doesn’t love chocolate (except for people who may be allergic to the ingredients)? Where there are allergies, I purchased some Free From alternatives, and gently wrapped them in the same wrapper – ‘care for the individual’ does not cease in lockdown. Awkwardly a number of parents messaged me to tell me they had cried when they read the message – ‘Stay strong, it won’t be long’.

I can’t tell you what the third mail-out is as this may not have hit doormats by the time you read this and I don’t want to spoil the surprise on the off-chance that any of my parents are reading this, which would be awkward but not impossible.

Additionally, when posting, consider capacity, and I don’t mean yours – I mean that of the nearest post-box. One mailing to our Brownies will fill up the nearest post-box. I learnt this the hard way. I realised that having put things into the postbox, I could also take the top layer of post out of the postbox. Therefore, if I could do this, anyone could. And whilst I am always up for spreading the good news that is Girlguiding, I’m not sure the DBS check of someone who’s stealing post out of postboxes would pass muster. Therefore I have become an expert in the locations of local postboxes, and their collection times, so I can time my mailings into suitably vacant postboxes. Sometimes I go after dark to avoid any potential postbox-shaming.

I once read that a particular type of toad lives in postboxes, therefore for most of my life I have avoided posting things when the post has been collected for the day, in case the resident toad is hungry. But I’m over that now and accept that it may have been a dream.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now